Friday, June 5, 2009

Botcon 2009, part 2

We attended our first Botcon way back in the summer of 1996. Wow, how things have changed! Back then, we used to be surprised if anyone from Hasbro even attended. Nowadays, Hasbro and the Transformers marketing team obviously put a ton of time and financial resources into the event. Boasting a (probably) several 1000 square foot display booth with multiple, well-lit glass display shelves, HUGE cutouts of movie characters, a decked out kids play area complete with diorama and a whole lot of toys to play with! This year they even included a display with various toy versions of UNICRON! The Armada figure next to the priceless, unreleased, G1 original toy!

It's amazing to see what this convention has become. Another more recent development are the guests in attendance. It's no longer just a show for older/adult toy collectors with money to spend on very high priced collectibles. That can be found too, but walking down the isles you find young kids, parents and teenagers as well as older fans in their twenties and thirties. The videos below give you a glimpse!

The next video is a continuation of the show floor. More kids, parents, toy collectors having a blast! Watch carefully, in my quick walk through the Hasbro booth, you'll see the Supreme Class Devastator and Leader Class Jetfire toys from Revenge of the Fallen. You can also see the Activision Booth where a few a few dozen fans are playing (or waiting in line to play) the new Transformers video games: Stan Bush's "You've Got the Touch" on Guitar Hero and Revenge of the Fallen for the Wii, XBox 360, etc. At the end of the clip, see Transformers Brand Development Manager (I don't know if that's his official title, but it's something like that!) Aaron Archer giving an interview to a local TV station. Yes, by the way, this is the guy that the "Angry Archer" from Transformers Animated is named after. (He doesn't seem so angry to me! :)

Of particular interest to many fans (including me) was what Transformers team members had to say about the future of Transformers Animated. It seemed to me that they were choosing their words very carefully. I'm not sure if this is just because they didn't want to insight a riot of fan backlash or because they're considering other not-yet-finalized possibilities. What they did say is that Transformers Animated as a cartoon series is done. I know, that totally sucks. But the good news is: YES, at least they will release toys for which molds have already been completed.

Deluxe: Rodimus Prime, Arcee, Electrostatic Soundwave, Freeway Jazz, Fugitive Waspinator, Cybertron Mode Ratchet & Ironhide (WITH new molded head! yeah!)
Voyager: Goldfire Grimlock, Hydrodive Bumblebee, and Blackout! We didn't see the Blackout toy on display but were shown a photo of the Earth-mode helicopter during the Hasbro panel. Imagine an animated spin on the Bay-Move MH-53 helicopter.

Plus, the potential exists for the story to continue in comic form. So stay tuned!

Of course Hasbro's major focus was on Revenge of the Fallen and all those magnificent toys! It should come as no surprise to you that there was no shortage of fantastic new product to be ogled over! Jetfire was particularly fantastic. You will not believe how enormous the jet mode looks! It's unreal and looks extremely awesome from every angle. There was no sign or mention of the 'combined with Optimus' mode, but that didn't matter. The toy looked impressive enough as a stand alone figure, I completely forgot about it.

The Constructicon Devastator, Supreme Class figure looked quite impressive as well, although no way was it 2 feet tall. The central "Scavenger" figure was staggeringly large. Long Haul looked far too small for my liking. I had the chance to talk to one Hasbro insider about this toy. He told me that they certainly would have preferred to make the individual components transformable to their individual robot modes. But consider that each Constructicon is a triple changer, plus has to combine... The cost of such a toy that "does it all" would've been well over $200. As much as we would dig it personally, we have to consider that there just isn't enough market for a $200+ action figure! Especially in today's economic climate. Tell you what though, from what could be seen through glass, I thought it looked very detailed and sturdy for a figure so large. I can't wait to get a closer look.

Check out all these and more in the gallery below.

The last category of toys featured at the Hasbro booth were those sporting the Transformers "Universe" logo. A small gallery is included below. The Soundwave display looked fantastic. The green Universe Onslaught recolor figure is Hard Head, don't know the identity of the black jet.

And finally, below is a condensed (believe it or not!) version of my notes from the two Hasbro Panels that took place at Botcon. Some of what's below is from their own presentation, the rest are responses to the Q&A which took place immediately following.

Greg Lombardo began their presentation by thanking the fans, "Even in today’s economy, there is such a huge turnout, Transformers fans come through thick and thin!" Presenters included:
Greg Lombardo, senior marketing director for Transformers
Aarong Archer senior design director, 8th botcon
Eric Siebenaller, senior toy designer, worked on animated
Bill Rawley, senior parts designer
Joe Kai, parts designer
Forest Lee, writes stories and character bios
Mike Ballog ...

Store Exclusives
- Six inch titanium OP and Thrust and Hot Zone (Hot spot)
- Commemorative Insecticons TRU exclusives trying reissues only at TRU
- Commemorative Perceptor due to his popularity in TFA
- Masterpiece Skywarp, differentiated from the Takara version, very G1 style.
- Voyager Fallen on fire look at Target. Black and red. Looks great.

Transformers Animated. As as a cartoon on Cartoon Network, the series is done. But all toys on display at the booth will find their way to market. Don't know exactly when or where yet but, "We will make every effort to release these toys."

- Deluxe Soundwave, based on Human Error color schemes.
- Deluxe Arcee this is atoy I (Eric Seibenaler) am as excited to see as the fans. A long time coming. Ever since the reintroduction of the character in Energon, we finally can do it right and close to G1 thanks to Derrick Wyatt for helping me to visualize this.
- Rodimus Minor
- Cybertronian Ratchet cool design of is younger days…
- Cybertroni deluxe Ironhide different head sculpt. Just like show!
- Fugative Waspinator. Unfortunately no new heaed sculpt for budget reasons but their is a story about he has electro camouflage is malfunctioning!
- Goldfire Grimlock, great character, a nice color scheme forest came up with
- Hydrodive Bumblebee. Bumblebee does remove from scuba back
- Voyager Blackout Earth mode, not alien mode wanted him to have a helicopter
- Wingblad Optimus: repaint of deluxe scale optimus with a LOT of new molded armament>> Great news here is that the armor also attaches to the Voyager Optimus!
- Voyager Thundercracker, yeah!

2010 ROTF sneak peak… Early concepts for 2010
- (ROTF) Wheelie and Soundwave
- Brakedown: sportscar lot of details, G1 colors, looked fantastic!
- Skystalker: dronde jet in the film, made it its own character
- Scattorshot: Movie (off screen) scout
- Movie Lockdown! (Crowd goes wild!) Wow imagine movie aesthetic on animated design. True to character, looks great.
- movie Ratchet: Still a hummer, very detailed design
- Deluxe Dirge: new mold, movie cone head. Looks like a harrier jet.
- Jungle attack Ironhide, more than a redeco, new bumper that turns into a weapon and a lot of retooling w/ sniper rifle and machine gun, combine to bigger more awesome weapon
- Voyager Bludgeon green tank all new mold. Extremely cool, Bill Rawley: "He’s one of my favorites. Very cool mech alive features. Opens out over shouler knife comes out..."
Human Alliance
- Barricade with Frenzy. Frenzy folds into cube shape, also very nice more movie accurate.

* Expanding movie line into spring, like allspark power, what you know as Universe.
* IDW drift, come back tomorrow for that answer! (Sounds like yes, though we never got that answer as Hasbro panel was cut short w/ Tyrese Gibson on day 2!)
* We cannot get into details, but you saw joing venture with Discovery channel. There will be an expectation that there will be a new Transformers TV series on this network. All the lessons learned from the production of Animated and Universe will be applied to next, new project. TFA has set the new standard for what we are going to live up to and exceed.

*No immediate plans to do more G1 Robot heroes.

* Animated: Specific characters that were slated that didn’t get done that you wanted to do? I (Eric) wanted to do Omega Supreme. Various figures that I wanted to do, that didn’t pan out for many reasons. Constructicons as well.

Why Supreme movie Constructicons have no individual modes?
* We wanted to make the best looking Devastator and best looking individual robot modes.

* If we were to do more TFA characters, they could potentially be sold in Universe packaging.

Do the Arcee bikes combine?
A: We designed them so the bikes combine, but I don’t don’t think they combine in the movie anymore, but our toys do.

Are you working to reduce the number of wire ties?
A: we’re looking at a lot of different options. There is a HUGE move in packaging to make our products *MORE GREEN!* Yes, less twist ties and much more environmentally friendly.

* Legends Constructions, yes will be released in the U.S.

* Leader Class Blackout?
We have plans for a leader class in fall of 2010, but it’s not blackout.
>> Saw pictures of grey model of Leader Class Starscream on day 2. Looked phenomenal. Siebenaller said, it's his favorite movie toy ever made.

* Springer is not in the movie, no more versions other than Robot Heroes and Legends toys you know of.

* Still no plans for the 6” titanium Cosmos or any further 6" Titanium toys.

* Shadowblad Megatron. We didn’t want him to be Galvatron. Color was inspired by the colors seen in the pilot movie. Black with a lot of purple backlighting…

Q: Any more CGI animated they were always real to me?
* That was done as a test, that brought that style ane we wanted to see what it looked like. Not originally done to be publically shared. There will be no more of them. It was done as an internal test.

Q: ~About GIJoe Resolute and if we could see a similar thing for Transformers?
A: As far as resolute. GIJoe is in a much different place than Transformers. From a story. It was a way to reengage fans and reintroduce characters. Not necessary for Transformers already known.

* Yes, the twins are Skids and Mudflap. It’s a plotpoint in the movie. At first glance we thought, we would never do this (Ice cream truck)! But the more we saw them and learned their place in the story, we thought: It was so corny we just had to do it.

* We heard that Megatron … The voyager megatron is the best place to find remnants of the flying tank megatron that won’t make it into the film. We (Hasbro) are glad it’s not in the film. Seeing Megatron flying awkwardly as a half flying tank. Not so cool to us.

Q: Will there be toys of all individual Constructicon characters?
A: Nope, (~not necessary)

A special surprise, Hasbro panel day 2 suddenly turned into Tyrese Gibson panel!!!!
... more on this to come!

Thank you for your time to read through all this awesomeness! If you haven't done so already, check out our Botcon 2009 report part 1... Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hasbro Q&A 06/04/09, Question 1:
In a previous Q&A, you told us that Rodimus Prime would still get the Transformers Animated toy treatment. We are wondering if you could expand on your plans for Transformers Animated toys through 2009 and 10. Are you still going to produce and sell toys like Animated Arcee, Electrostatic Soundwave, Rodimus Prime, Blackout and that underwater Bumblebee toy (and others)? When might fans expect to see them in stores?

Hasbro, Response 1:
There are several unreleased Animated figures that have been shown at various events or in publications over the past few months. We realize there is a lot of excitement surrounding these characters and will try to bring as many to market as possible over the next year, either as part of the existing mainline assortments or as exclusives. We cannot offer details as to where or when, but they will find their way out., Question 2:
We cannot wait for Revenge of the Fallen! Are there any characters that will appear in the film that have not yet leaked onto the internet? And if so who are they!? (Like Wheeljack for instance?) As an addendum to this question, any chance you could you provide us some photos before they show up on some random chinese auction website?

Hasbro, Response 2:
We have to say that we certainly share your frustration with the constant leaks!

With that said, you will just have to stay tuned to see if there are anymore characters that are announced. We have to keep some secrets in the vault!, Question 3:
According to the press release regarding the development of a new television network; a collaboration between Hasbro and Discovery Communications: "Creative work will start in the next few months beginning with early stage development for properties including ...TRANSFORMERS... The creative team will have the capability to produce animated, live-action, and game show programming as well as content designed for digital and mobile extensions."

This press release raises dozens of questions for us! Please select one question from those below that you are most willing to answer:

- In general terms, what does this mean for the future of Transformers?
- Any possibility that TF Animated would continue into season 4 on this network?
- What is the soonest that a new Transformers television show could premiere?
- Should fans be expecting another revamp of the franchise fiction?
- Are you considering English dubs of Japanese series such as Headmasters, Victory, Beast Wars II or Neo on this new television network?

Hasbro, Response 3:
With the recent announcement of the Hasbro and Discovery Kids joint venture there will likely be great opportunities for new Transformers animation. Unfortunately, it is a little bit too early to make any announcement on what this may or may not be.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Botcon 2009, pt 1

Highlights of this year's Botcon were, for us, more about the experience and events than any specific news revelations unveiled by Hasbro or other convention guests. We had such a blast, our heads are still spinning trying to process it all! Below is a video from Thursday at the convention center, the night before the the sales floor opened.

All things considered, we thought the lines moved in a very orderly and efficient fashion as compared with previous years, even with the much increased attendance.

The first gallery (below) features the "Sights of Botcon." It's an assortment of many of the things we saw throughout the weekend. I'll try to give you a brief rundown of what's included. To the right, that's me next to Tyrese "Left Cheek!" Gibson, who made a surprise appearance at the end of the second Hasbro panel. Other treats of the weekend included the Botcon Exclusives, the "Animating Animated" panel with Matt Youngberg (Producer), Derrick Wyatt (art director) and Marty Isenberg Transformers Animated lead writer and editor. Fans enjoyed a panel by the Transformers movie writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, that's them on the right talking to Animated writer Marty Isenberg, following their autograph session. Also seen were panels by Stan (You've got the Touch!) Bush and Vince DiCola (TFTM musical score), Greg Berger (G1 Grimlock) and Michael McConnie (G1 Tracks and Cosmos), Hasbro and the G1 cartoon series writers panel. Shown here the Generation One writers panel.

The video below is a clip from the G1 writers panel: (from left to right) Flint Dille (TFTM... Writer), Paul Davids (Cosmic Rust...), David Wise (Key to Vector Sigma...) and Bryce Malek (editor) each take their turns answering questions from one fan: How they kept straight all the different things going on to "fit into continuity." He also asked about their most and least favorite characters and if any Transformer's personalities were based on personal friends.

Unfortunately, this clip ended just before Flint Dille stated how the new Autobot characters were based on the '85 Bears Mike McMahon, Mike Singletary, etc! Too funny.

Although photographs from the Transformers Movie writers panel Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, were hard to come by, I did take notes of the highlights, which you can read below. Stay tuned the report from Botcon 2009, Part 2 is coming up next!

Orci/Kurtzman: Started panel with discussion of how hard they worked on ROTF the second writer's strike was done. They locked themselves in a hotel room to write, write, write... Shooting began 4 months to the day after the strike ended.

Thanks to the fans for involvement! Still amazed at the level of fan enthusiasm.

Question about differences between writing Transformers versus Star Trek:
Star Trek and Transformers are very different franchises. Signature characters in transformers are millon dollar a minute CGI creations. Whereas Kirk and spok are the best actors in their price range! :) What do we like writing better? I don't know, we'll see when we do the third (Transformers) film and have Megatron vs. the Enterprise! We'll see who wins!

Talking about Shia's accident, it wasn't his fault. Media didn't emphasize that the car that struck him ran a red light before colliding with him. The fact that he was able to continue filming was amazing. When you watch the moive, especially the third act, notice he's doing these stunts with a seriously smashed up hand. The guy's a trooper!

Q: about deciding about new characters for ROTF
A: 3 ways new characters decided upon for the film
1.) carry over from first movie: Ravage, Soundwave, Arcee
2.) Michael Bay had ideas, wanted new character personalities to fit story needs.
3.) Hasbro suggested character personas that they brought in.

Q: Dinobots in the third one?
A: Maybe

Alex talked about working with Hasbro. a constant flow of creative energy and back and forth dialog. Never had anything forced upon them. Shown options, what can be done. It was like being shown an enormous menu and getting to choosing exactly and as many characters as best suited the story of ROTF.

Q: How do you react to blog criticism?
A: They had post production meetings. Lets talk about critiques. Was their too much humor, did we not spend enough time on the robots? etc

Many lessons learned from the first movie, what worked, what didn't...Now that we have seen what the geniuses at ILM can do, push the envelope... Alex motioned to Bob Orci and said, he handles criticism better than I do. Probably because often time, fans were right with their critique.

Q: is the big guy with the wheel Demolisher or Scavenger?
Greg Lombardo: I know why you're asking, but we cannot say until you see the film there is a reason why he has two names.

Q: What are the chances of seeing Unicron?
A: (Bob Orci) I think there is a good chance of that. Especially if you fans raise a stink!

Q: About deciding upon Soundwave's alternate mode
A: He was tricky, we look at Humvee with giant speakers... Ultimately, his form was decided upon by knowing he has to do with sound and the transmission of communications stuff...

Q: Will we ever see the Autobot Matrix of Leadership in the live movies?
A: That is a very good question. thank you for asking. Next question! :Crowd erupts with applause and lgughter.

Q: About selling the concept of "female" Transformers.
A: It took no "selling" to the studio or Bay. No explanation of femaleness of robots needed or given. They just are.

Q: About silver Corvette being Sideswipe and why this car selection.
A: If you know Michael, you know he loves cars. He actually considered keeping Sideswipe a Lambrogini, seeing as how he has 2! (Crowd laughter!) But we actually get very little say as to car selection and this is the magnificent beauty that he chose. We took aspects of his personality and put it in that phenomenal looking car.

Q: About Skids an Mudflap:
A: About them, Ice craem truck we can't reveal too much about why he is the form that he is, much is dictated by what Michael Bay thinks is funny. You'll learn more about why he has this form in the story of the movie.

Q: Another questions about Unicron in TF3
A: Kurtzman asked why? Seriously, why do you want to see him?
A: Fan responded with awesomeness of scale, a planet transformer and Unicron's ultimate place within the mythology of Transformers.

Q: Why do Transformers mostly turn into humanoid form?
A: It turns out to be a result of co-evolution to similar forms in silicon based life forms

Q: Will there be a grand explanation of the nature or development of combiners?
A: Michael wanted, well, that is if there are combiners in ROTF! :) He wanted to sell it on seeing it, without the build-up. Make it make sense story-wise without having to have a long winded explanation. It's another logical fit, getting back to the evolution of silicon based life forms. You want the real explanation? Well, it all started in the techno-swamps near the Taurus states of Praxus... Crowd applause and laughter!

Q: Fifth vote for Unicron in TF3! Then fan asked, studio was not originally into the idea of robots talking... did that influence the decision to keep Bumblebee from talking?
A: No, there were a number of things that informed that. 1) ET like interaction... 2) We knew that Prime was coming in the middle of the movie, and the first first robot you hear speak needs to be Prime.

Q: Is the helicopter Decepticon seen in the trailer Grindor or Blackout?
A: That's a spoiler...Not comfortable talking about that until you're seen the movie.


And that wraps up the highlights of the Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman panel. Stay tuned, Part 2 of's report from Botcon 2009 is coming up soon!